Those that are not 'in the know' may believe that anyone that can master the art of the 'auction chant' and a sparkling personality can engage in the field of professional auctioneering. Perhaps you may know someone, maybe even yourself who mustered up the courage and attempted to impersonate a professional auctioneer. Another scenario is where the 'creative' fundraising committee may even hire a local celebrity such as the anchor or weather man or the bearded funny man from early morning talk radio to conduct the live auction. Many organizations around the globe make this common mistake year in and year out because they have the illusion that their volunteer 'once a year' auctioneer is actually "saving the organization money" or the famous personality is "making us money." In most cases, your volunteer auctioneer with good intentions is actually costing you money and is easily opening up your organization and the auctioneer to severe legal consequences.
At the surface, some less than keen observers view the role of the auctioneer as an "easy profession" and one that "most anyone can do" (providing they are stricken with stage freight.) A large majority of non-auction industry observers have the misconception that all that needs to be learned is the rhythmic auction chant. In reality, the auction chant is one of the last components a professional auctioneer learns and in many cases, the high octane speed chant is not appropriate in many auction settings. In short, the way an auctioneer conducts the chant during a fundraising auction is usually much different than when they're selling automobiles.
A career auctioneer is a highly skilled auction professional that has generally invested thousands of dollars in education and continuing education to learn the necessities of the auction business. Thousands of auctioneers exist around the globe but only a small percentage shine above their colleagues. The successful auctioneer is a lifelong student of the industry who studies the market and has a tremendous amount of pride in what they do. They are quick on their feet and skilled with reading their audience, utilize countless strategies and tactics to stimulate stagnant bidding, master the art of audience control, understand proper order of sale, grouping appropriate items and have a glowing personality to boot.
Most importantly, any person that takes the risk of 'impersonating' an auctioneer must be fully competent of all the legalities involved with the assumed role or they are foolishly risking severe legal consequences that will affect the organization they are representing and of course themselves. For starters, anyone that chooses to engage in the skilled practice of the auctioneer must be well versed with 'Auction Law' and the 'Universal Commercial Code." Avoidance or ignorance of the legal guidelines often results with watching the fall of another gavel - in the courtroom.
More specifically, do you realize that there are well over 500 different commonly used auction terms that ALL auctioneers must be familiar with? Such knowledge is a MUST KNOW in order to properly head an auction. Here is a sampling of some basic terms that the entry level auctioneer should be aware of before ever considering calling a bid. Bid jumping, Bid Rigging, Bid Siphoning, Capping, Forced Sale, Capper, Knock Down Price, Phantom Bid, Proxy Bidding, Puffer, Salted Bid, Skipper, Uniform Auction, Upset Price, Vickrey Auction, Wreck, Dutch Auction, Chinese Auction, Shill Bidding plus 490 or so other terms. The auctioneer must have such a well rounded understanding of such terms and their definition and role in an auction where it becomes second nature.
Auction law is very much enforced, complicated in areas and cannot be learned in a matter of hours. In short, all auctioneers must have a full working knowledge of licensing issues and state regulations, agency law, conduct and validity of the sale, withdraw of property from an auction, who may bid?, Memoranda of sale and the statue of frauds, Remedies for failure to consummate the transaction, rights and liabilities of the auctioneer, Disabled bidders and what the law requires and of course auction ethics and an abundance more.
One of the most basic definitions which cause inexperienced auctioneers many severe problems is the legal definition of an 'Auction' versus an 'Absolute Auction.' Did you know that the legal component of the term 'Auction' means a sale with a reserve price? An 'Absolute Auction' means that everything will be sold regardless of price and the auctioneer or the owner cannot deny the bid whatsoever. Did you know it's generally illegal to re-open the bidding once the item has been declared "sold!"
Let's face it. The majority of the world population can mock the auctioneers chant with a degree of practice and ease but ONLY a skilled career auctioneer can convert a satisfactory auction to an outstanding auction. One of the greatest dilemmas that plagues both the clients and the auction industry today are those that are strictly 'impersonating' the auctioneer and they get a round of applause and a pat on the back at the end. The grim reality remains, the 'impersonators' no matter how 'good' they appear to be have potentially left thousands of dollars off the table.
To support the above fact, I'll share with you one out of several situations where a professional auctioneer made a world of difference to an annual school fundraising auction. In 2002, we received a phone call from a local school that reluctantly decided to outsource their auctioneer to a professional. In previous years, a father of one of the student's volunteered to be the auctioneer for the evening. When I asked, how he worked out, they said he was "wonderful" but was no longer available because he took an out-of-town job. After a lengthy discussion, I scheduled a date to meet with the entire fundraising committee. During this meeting, auction preparation was coordinated with followed with several phone consultations and two more meetings with the committee. By the time it was all said and done, this auction generated nearly triple what they did any year before! To really put it in perspective, the one auction they consulted and utilized a professional auctioneer totaled more than their last three years combined! Two years later, the continued auction success was part of a front page story in The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News.
As noted from the National Auctioneers Association, the auctioneer is a member of a proud profession that has existed for centuries. Along with the right to conduct our profession, the auctioneer also has the responsibility to conduct themselves with the utmost competence and integrity. The continuing success of the auction industry depends on the public's perception that auctioneers are well-informed persons of the highest character. By becoming adequately informed of the potential pitfalls in the auction industry, this will ensure that the profession continues to be one that is not only an integral part of a vital economy, but also one that is consistently given the respect it has earned through centuries of trusted and proven service to the public.
Your bottom and bottom line is at stake. Make the wise decision and chose a 'real' auctioneer for the job.